Connor’s preschool has an annual character parade where the children dress up as their favorite literary characters and parade around the parking lot. As soon as I asked him, Connor knew without a doubt that he wanted to be Little Critter, the star of a series of books by Mercer Mayer. It didn’t surprise me because he really does love those books. It did, however, freak me out. Why couldn’t he have picked an easily assembled, identified, or purchased character like Thomas the Train or the Cat in the Hat? Not many even know who Litter Critter is let alone sell costumes of him. Even Little Critter doesn’t seem to know who he is. Is he a hedgehog? A hamster? A guinea pig? World-class scholars can only debate this age-old query. Any guesses?
The only costume I (and my very helpful friend Ellen) could find on internet searches was for adults that one could borrow if one shipped it out for a whopping $140. The chances of Connor being his beloved Little Critter were fading fast. I asked if there was anyone else he could be. Nope. He actually said that he would rather be nothing at all then any other character. Sad. I hoped sitting out his school’s big event would not scar him for life and added an extra amount to his future therapy fund. Oh, well, such is the fate of children of the non-crafty, right?
Wrong! If I can run around the block 3 times a week, then surely I can keep the miracles coming and put together something Critter-esque for my son. With less than a week left, I determinedly hit the stores in search of overalls last Tuesday morning: Target, Gap, and Old Navy. No luck. Apparently overalls are only cute if you are less than 24 months old. Tell that to the farmer man. I diligently searched online and ordered a pair for toddlers from Old Navy’s website in hopes of a quick standard delivery.
Thanks to the suggestion of fellow Albuquerquean, Sandra, I checked out Savers Thrift Store the following morning. I found a brown wig to help with the Critter head. I also saw some overalls, but they were covered with giraffes or teddy bears. The plain denim from Old Navy I ordered would be more true to Critter-style even though 10 times pricier. This mama will spare no expense for her son! Well, except for express shipping to ensure on-time delivery. Standard delivery in a time crunch is living life on the edge.
After Connor tried on the wig looking more like Tina Turner than Little Critter, I realized that just the wig and overalls would still leave people confused as to who he was supposed to be. How could I enhance the get up? Maybe a round brown nose? Of course! That should be easy to find, right? How often have we all said, “Wow. Why are there so many round brown noses for sale everywhere?!” Too often, I know.
Thursday morning, I gathered as much bravery as I could and marched into the non-crafty mom’s ultimate Haunted House: Jo-Ann Fabrics. No noses of any sort in site. I asked for help from a kind woman who started showing me slabs of foam as if to suggest I create my own. One look at my bewildered face and she quickly said, “Why don’t you check Party City?” I found one black round nose at Party City. It happened to be near some colored hairspray. The worker there thought the brown hairspray would be too light on the black nose. So I headed to yet another scary Haunted House, the nearby Michael’s, and looked for regular spray paint. The cost was $12 for a large can that I would never ever use again. $2.99 colored hairspray it is!
That afternoon, the Old Navy package arrived. Score for on-time delivery for this gambling mom! Connor excitedly tried them on when he got home from school. He saw nothing wrong with them. I, on the other hand, could not afford more additions to his therapy fund.
Maybe the hearts on the buttons should have been a dead-giveaway, but it wasn’t until he put them on that I saw the form-fitting, boot-cut style FOR GIRLS. Plus they were short and prone to giving him a permanent wedgie. Gamble lost. Panic found. I already had a caveman wig and a successfully hair-sprayed brown round nose. Without the key piece, the denim overalls, the chances of Connor resembling Little Critter went from 10% to 0.0001%. I had 3 days till the parade and only one of those was a business day. Forget online ordering. I was going to have to be “Bond…James Bond” racing around the great city of Albuquerque without the Aston Martin, gadgets and great hair.
Friday, energized after a morning run, I heard the “Mission: Impossible” theme song blaring in my head.
10:10am – Headed to Marshalls. Displayed excessive willpower by not perusing women’s active wear and going directly to the boys’ section. No overalls.
10:25am – Headed to T.J. Maxx. Showed impressive restraint by walking past purses and going directly to the boys’ section. No overalls.
10:35am – Headed to the mall. Went to Sears. No overalls. Walked over to Kohl’s. Gasped when I saw overalls. Then sighed when I realized they were for infants. No boys’ overalls. Relieved bladder after continuing my phenomenal focus and bypassing Sephora and Banana Republic.
11:00am – Headed with flagging momentum to St. Vincent De Paul Thrift Store. No overalls. No restraint needed.
11:10am – Headed to Thrift City. Contemplated the only overalls in the store, found in the girls’ section. Above drag picture came to mind. No overalls purchased.
11:15am – Headed back to Savers Thrift Store reconciling that an (ambiguous) animal like Little Critter surely wouldn’t object to animals all over his overalls. Grew distraught when all previous overalls from two days earlier were gone. Heard the Messiah chorus when I found a pair of 4T plain denim overalls for boys…purchased for $0.99!
11:30am – Expected my mom’s 10-year-old Maxima hand-me-down to turn into an Aston Martin while I headed to return my $18 feminine overalls to the Old Navy store. I even had time to pick up a few groceries at Trader Joe’s before picking up my little critter from preschool. BOOYAH!
Why bore readers with all this detail? Because one day, Connor may read this. I hope he realizes that nothing says “I love you” like pulling together an outfit that will either have the other parents singing “What’s Love Got to Do with It” or frantically grabbing their tykes and running in Deliverance-inspired fear. Either way, I know he will now upgrade my nursing home room and make sure they give me two desserts per meal. I have to say that seeing his genuine excitement about being Little Critter, his ecstatic joy each time I showed him a new addition to the Critter costume, and hearing that he proudly shared with classmates all about his character get-up made the quest for Critter more than worth it. If it isn’t obvious, Nonnor-boo, your mommy loves you. And yes, after seeing the final product, I did add more to the future therapy fund.